Wednesday, August 24, 2011

“’Their real influence is their own imaginations’: Dorothy Supri on the International Student Film Festival Hollywood”

By James Latham

Young filmmakers today have more and better opportunities than ever to make movies and get them seen. At the VFF, we’ve screened some films made by teenagers, while other festivals are solely devoted to the work of young filmmakers. Recently I spoke with Dorothy Supri, who, along with Robin Saban (pictured, second from right, with student filmmakers), runs the International Student Film Festival Hollywood. For nine years, the ISFFH has screened a wide range of works by students from all over the world. I wanted to talk with Dorothy about her organization as both a youth-oriented program and a fellow LA-based independent film festival.

James Latham: The ISFFH shows works made solely by student filmmakers of all ages. Tell us more about it.

Dorothy Supri: Like we say on our website, art is and always has been our universal language and the ISFFH has been successfully reaching out to student filmmakers all over the world for more than eight years. We have screened films from all seven of the world’s continents.

The ISFFH reaches out to student filmmakers of all ages, from elementary to graduate school. It is this generation of story tellers that will be influencing the following generations. The ISFFH gives them a platform to be seen, offering students the unique opportunity to gain the recognition of film industry leaders and create career development opportunities.

The film industry is constantly searching for creative, new artistic talent and vision. We seek to serve as an international liaison bringing together promising creative talent from all corners of the earth.

The constant reach of human creativity for more refined and powerful methods of artistic expression has led to the creation and expansion of new media: music videos, abstract features, hybrid film, animation, etc. We seek to open a flow of international talent and to celebrate new artistic discoveries from all over the world. We seek that singular, challenging, and passionate student talent.

JL: You screen a wide range of films—features, shorts, dramas, comedies, animation, documentaries. What trends, if any, have you seen recently in the documentary films? What kinds of information / issues are especially interesting to young filmmakers these days?

DS: Personal stories have been a big part of documentaries, such as the life struggles of a filmmaker’s family. It may be a story of a life lost in a battle of one form or another; or of a previous generation and how it has built the character of that family today.

I’ve seen a number of films without dialogue. Personally, I really enjoy seeing a story told without words, you simply watch it unfold with image and sound. It can be very dramatic and very touching.

JL: Yes, sometimes the lack of technology can be a plus. What are some other films you’ve screened that were technically simple, but still very creative, emotionally powerful, entertaining, or informative?

DS: One film that comes to mind is Omer, a documentary about a quirky street performer that simply told his story on camera. It was the chosen character himself that made the story so incredibly touching and powerful.

Also, elementary age animation and claymation have got to be some of the simplest, yet most creative and entertaining films! Kids are able to tell their story in a fun, simple and direct approach without over thinking and fuss. Their real influence is their own imaginations.

JL: How has your location in Hollywood helped the ISFFH and its filmmakers? What challenges has location posed, if any?

DS: Our location has a tremendous advantage for student filmmakers as it allows them to visit the epicenter of filmmaking. Many students make plans prior to the festival to visit schools while here where they may have the opportunity to further their education. Others may visit working studios and most will take time to see Hollywood itself.

JL: What's the biggest misconception about your festival? OR, what do you feel is the biggest misconception about film festivals generally?

DS: I don’t know what misconceptions anyone may have of our festival, but I do know that our participants are given a tremendous opportunity to interact with each other and other guests including working people in the industry who attend to lend their support. The ISFFH allows the filmmakers to have their film screened in front of an audience and to build connections. We have a warm, welcoming atmosphere where even the most timid filmmakers end up engaging with others.

JL: Any parting words of advice for filmmakers who want to submit to the ISFFH?

DS: When applying to the ISFFH or any film festival, be sure to fill out the entry form completely, yet keep your answers concise. Also, be sure to give correct contact information; there is nothing worse than to win an award that will never make it to you.

Also, don’t miss an opportunity to have your film screened among your peers and receive friendly feedback. It is a rare occasion that you will have so many likeminded people in one place; from different cultures around the world to exchange ideas and techniques with—memories that will last a lifetime.

The International Student Film Festival Hollywood takes place this November 5-6th. The deadline for entries is August 31st.

For more on The Valley Film Festival, visit our website or Facebook page.

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